Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.

Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw

Date: 02-01-2021

Case Style:


Case Number: 2019-T-0028



Plaintiff's Attorney: Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County Prosecutor; Diane Barber & Ashleigh Musick,
Assistant Prosecutors

Defendant's Attorney:

Free National Lawyer Directory


Just Call 855-853-4800 for Free Help Finding a Lawyer Help You.


Warren, OH - Criminal defense attorney represented Andre R. Williams with a denyial of Williams’ petition for postconviction relief..

{¶1} Andre R. Williams, an offender on Ohio’s death row, appeals from the April
11, 2019 judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, denying Williams’
petition for postconviction relief. Pursuant to Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002),
Williams claims he is intellectually disabled and challenges imposition of the death penalty
against him as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. The judgment is reversed, and the matter is remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Relevant Procedural History
{¶2} Williams and a co-defendant were charged with the home invasion and
murder of George Melnick and the attempted murder of Katherine Melnick. Williams was
additionally charged with the rape of Katherine Melnick. In 1989, a jury found Williams
guilty of three counts of aggravated murder and four death penalty specifications for each
count; attempted aggravated murder; aggravated burglary; aggravated robbery; and the
lesser included offense of attempted rape. During the penalty phase, the prosecution
moved to dismiss two of the aggravated murder charges. The jury unanimously
recommended a sentence of death on the remaining count of aggravated murder based
on the underlying felony of aggravated burglary. The Trumbull County Court of Common
Pleas sentenced Williams to the death penalty and prison terms. The Supreme Court of
Ohio upheld Williams’ convictions and death sentence in State v. Williams, 74 Ohio St.3d
569 (1996).
{¶3} Williams’ initial claim for habeas relief from the federal courts was filed in
1999. Subsequent to the denial of his habeas petition, the United States Supreme Court
decided Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). Atkins stands for the proposition that the
execution of an intellectually disabled criminal is “cruel and unusual punishment”
prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id. at syllabus.
{¶4} Following Atkins, the Supreme Court of Ohio developed procedures and
substantive standards for resolving claims of intellectual disability in the context of death
penalty cases (“Atkins claims”). State v. Lott, 97 Ohio St.3d 303, 2002-Ohio-6625. The
Court set forth a three-part test for intellectual disability (the “Lott Test”): (1) significantly
subaverage intellectual functioning; (2) significant limitations in two or more adaptive
skills, such as communication, self-care, and self-direction; and (3) onset before the age
of 18. Id. at ¶12. The Lott Court further held that IQ tests alone “are not sufficient to
make a final determination” on the issue and that “there is a rebuttable presumption that
a defendant is not [intellectually disabled]1 if his or her IQ is above 70.” Id.
{¶5} In 2003, Williams filed an Atkins claim with the Trumbull County Court of
Common Pleas via a petition for postconviction relief. On October 19, 2004, the trial court
granted summary judgment to the state of Ohio and dismissed Williams’ petition without
hearing. The trial court found Williams failed to meet his burden to submit evidentiary
documents containing sufficient operative facts to demonstrate intellectual disability
because (1) his expert witness had reported Williams obtained a full scale IQ of 75, which
did not meet the criteria based upon the Lott definition; and (2) the evidence revealed no
deficiencies in adaptive skills. On appeal, this court reversed the trial court’s judgment
and remanded the matter for the trial court to address the issues of dismissal and
summary judgment separately and to enter a new judgment on Williams’ petition. State
v. Williams, 165 Ohio App.3d 594, 2006-Ohio-617, ¶21 (11th Dist.), appeal not accepted,
110 Ohio St.3d 1410 (2006).
{¶6} On remand, the trial court issued a revised entry granting summary
judgment to the state without holding a hearing and without any new testing of Williams.
This court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. We held that “[t]he only criterion for which
Williams met his burden [to raise a genuine issue of material fact] is the third criterion.

1. Until relatively recently, “intellectual disability” was nominally referred to as “mental retardation.”
The evidence before the court does demonstrate that Williams had indications of
[intellectual disability] before the age of 18.” State v. Williams, 11th Dist. Trumbull No.
2007-T-0105, 2008-Ohio-3257, ¶34, appeal not accepted, 120 Ohio St.3d 1453 (2008).
Unlike the trial court, we credited Williams’ school and psychological records, which
included the school psychologists’ description of “educable mentally retarded”; a full scale
IQ score of 67 from the age of nearly 16; and an evaluation that determined Williams’
adaptive behavior functioning was several years behind his actual age in areas of
communication and self-direction. Id. We rejected this evidence, however, in assessing
whether Williams satisfied the first two Lott factors because it did “not constitute
competent evidence from which inferences may be made regarding his present mental
capacity.” Id. at ¶37 (emphasis added).
{¶7} In 2009, Williams filed an Atkins claim in the federal district court via a
petition for habeas corpus. The district court held that, because we had determined
Williams satisfied the “age of onset” criterion, it needed only review our factual
determinations regarding the other two criteria. The district court held our factual
determinations that Williams failed to demonstrate “significant subaverage intellectual
functioning” and “adaptive skills deficits” was not unreasonable in light of the evidence
presented. Williams v. Mitchell, N.D.Ohio No. 1:09 CV 2246, 2012 WL 4505774, *38
(Sept. 28, 2012).
{¶8} The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s decision,
finding this court’s decision was contrary to clearly established federal law for a number
of reasons. Williams v. Mitchell, 792 F.3d 606 (6th Cir.2015).
{¶9} First, the Sixth Circuit criticized our “wholesale exclusion” of past evidence
of intellectual disability in determining whether Williams has significantly subaverage
mental functioning and adaptive skills limitations as “opposite” and “directly contrary” to
clearly established Federal law set forth in Atkins: “notwithstanding the Lott court holding
that past evidence of intellectual functioning (e.g., past IQ scores, evidence of adaptive
limitations from ‘early-life’) was relevant to the three Atkins factors, the court of appeals
rejected outright any pre-1989 evidence from its analysis of Williams’s intellectual
functioning and adaptive skills, despite finding this same evidence showed that Williams
was intellectually disabled before he turned eighteen.” Id. at 617. “[T]here is no basis for
the Ohio Court of Appeals to have assumed, as it apparently did, that most low childhood
IQ scores (or, to be precise, age-fifteen IQ scores) are the result of developmental
delays.” Id. at 618. “[B]ecause intellectual disability manifests itself during childhood and
remains static throughout life, evidence of intellectual disability from one point in life is
relevant to an examination of intellectual disability in another.” Id. at 619, citing State v.
White, 118 Ohio St.3d 12 (2008) and State v. Lorraine, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2006-T0100, 2007-Ohio-6724.
{¶10} Second, the Sixth Circuit held that our ruling was “contrary to the
established definition of intellectual disability as set forth in clearly established Supreme
Court precedent” by categorically excluding “substantial and weighty evidence” from our
analysis and ignoring the medical community’s determination that intellectual disability
manifests before the age of 18. Id. at 619, 621. “Importantly, the clinical definitions cited
with approval by Atkins and adopted by Lott do not treat present functioning and early
onset as unrelated parts of a disconnected three-part test. To the contrary, a plain reading
of these clinical definitions makes clear that if an individual is indeed presently
intellectually disabled, as the term is understood, the disability would have manifested
itself before the individual turned eighteen.” Id. at 619-620, citing Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S.
312, 323 (1993) (intellectual disability “is a permanent, relatively static condition”) and
Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701, 724 (a petitioner must be able to present evidence regarding
“deficits in adaptive functioning over his lifetime”).
{¶11} Finally, the Sixth Circuit found our decision “applied an arbitrary and
disproportionate evidentiary rule to exclude the pre-1989 evidence at issue,” thereby
abridging Williams’ due process right to present evidence. The Sixth Circuit noted that
this arbitrary “cutoff” resulted in a categorical exclusion only to evidence that was
submitted by Williams. Id. at 622-623, citing United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303, 308
(1998) and Holmes v. S. Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 326 (2006) (“the Constitution thus
prohibits the exclusion of defense evidence under rules that serve no legitimate purpose
or that are disproportionate to the ends that they are asserted to promote”).
{¶12} The Sixth Circuit issued a remand order for the district court to grant a writ
of habeas corpus prohibiting imposition of the death penalty against Williams,
“conditioned upon a fresh analysis by the Ohio courts as to whether Williams is
intellectually disabled pursuant to governing law.” Id. at 624 (citations omitted).
In remanding, we note that clearly established Federal law, as set
forth above, requires courts to consider all relevant evidence
bearing on an individual’s intellectual functioning and to apply
clinical principles of intellectual disability adopted by federal
precedent. Indeed, the most recent evidence in the record is well
over ten years old, so this could include presentation of new
evidence from both Williams and the State relevant to Williams’s
functioning. But whether to grant an evidentiary hearing after
considering all relevant evidence and applying the applicable law is
for the state court to decide in the first instance.
Id. (internal citations omitted).
{¶13} On remand, the district court ordered the state of Ohio to initiate
proceedings in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas to reassess Williams’ Atkins
claim in his 2003 petition for postconviction relief, pursuant to the Sixth Circuit’s opinion.
{¶14} The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on Williams’ Atkins claim over
multiple days in 2016 and 2017. Ultimately, on April 11, 2019, the trial court issued a 43-
page judgment entry, concluding Williams failed to carry his burden under Atkins and Lott.
The trial court concluded:
Under the first prong, because Defendant’s IQ scores were
borderline and did not definitively show that Defendant is
intellectually disabled, this Court followed the mandate of Hall and
assessed Defendant’s adaptive functioning. This Court has
determined that Defendant has not proven that he has significant
limitations in adaptive functioning. Finally, under the third prong,
Defendant has failed to prove onset before the age of 18. For all the
reasons stated above, the Court finds that Petitioner failed to carry
his burden.
{¶15} Williams’ petition for postconviction relief was again denied. Williams
noticed the instant appeal from this denial.
Subsequent Judicial Precedent
{¶16} Subsequent to filing his notice of appeal with this court, the Supreme Court
of Ohio decided State v. Ford, announcing the “Lott Test” was outdated. The Court set
forth an updated three-part test for intellectual disability (“the Ford Test”) and held that
the rebuttable presumption that a defendant is not intellectually disabled if his or her IQ
score is above 70 is no longer valid. State v. Ford, 158 Ohio St.3d 139, 2019-Ohio-4539,
¶100. In reaching this decision, the Ohio Supreme Court analyzed the relatively recent
United States Supreme Court decisions of Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014) and Moore
v. Texas, 581 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017) (“Moore I”), which struck down state-court
decisions on intellectual disability by applying updated medical diagnostic standards.
Ford, supra, at ¶46-55.
{¶17} Even without the benefit of the Ford decision, the trial court relied on the
recent United States Supreme Court precedents in concluding that Williams did not meet
his burden to prove any part of his Atkins claim. Accordingly, we proceed to the merits of
Williams’ appeal.
Legal Standards for Assessing Intellectual Disability
United States Supreme Court
{¶18} In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321 (2002), the Supreme Court of the
United States held that, in light of our “evolving standards of decency,” the execution of
intellectually disabled individuals violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and
unusual punishments. The Court explained,
[Intellectually disabled] persons frequently know the difference
between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial. Because
of their impairments, however, by definition they have diminished
capacities to understand and process information, to communicate,
to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in
logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the
reactions of others. There is no evidence that they are more likely to
engage in criminal conduct than others, but there is abundant
evidence that they often act on impulse rather than pursuant to a
premeditated plan, and that in group settings they are followers
rather than leaders. Their deficiencies do not warrant an exemption
from criminal sanctions, but they do diminish their personal
Id. at 318. The Atkins Court also found that intellectually disabled offenders in the
aggregate are at “special risk of wrongful execution” due to the possibility of false
confessions, difficulty with providing meaningful assistance to counsel and persuasively
showing mitigation, and a demeanor that may create an unwarranted impression of lack
of remorse. Id. at 320-321.
{¶19} Because of disagreement and difficulty in determining which offenders are
in fact intellectually disabled, the United States Supreme Court left to the states the task
of developing appropriate procedures to enforce this constitutional restriction on capital
punishment. Id. at 317, citing Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 416-417 (1986).
{¶20} The Court in Atkins referred to then current clinical manuals of the American
Association on Mental Retardation (“AAMR”) and the American Psychiatric Association
(“APA”). These definitions required (1) significantly subaverage intellectual functioning;
(2) significant limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas, such as communication, selfcare, and self-direction, etc., and (3) onset before the age of 18. Atkins, supra, at 308,
fn. 3. Thus, while “the States play a critical role in advancing protections and providing
the Court with information that contributes to an understanding of how intellectual
disability should be measured and assessed, * * * Atkins did not give the States unfettered
discretion to define the full scope of the constitutional protection.” Hall, supra, at 719.
{¶21} The United States Supreme Court has since applied updated medical
diagnostic standards in striking down state-court decisions on intellectual disability:
namely, the Intellectual Disability: Definition, Classification, and Systems of Supports
(“AAIDD-11”), a clinical manual published in 2010 by the American Association on
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (“AAIDD”) (f.k.a. the AAMR); and the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.2013) (“DSM-5”) published
in 2013 by the APA. See id. at 704-705, 713, 722-723.
{¶22} In 2014, the United States Supreme Court declared courts must consider
the standard error of measurement (“SEM”) when evaluating an offender’s IQ score. Id.
at 722-723. The United States Supreme Court therefore modified Atkins’ first prong by
declaring that, “when a defendant’s IQ test score falls within the test’s acknowledged and
inherent margin of error, the defendant must be able to present additional evidence of
intellectual disability, including testimony regarding adaptive deficits.” Id. at 723.
{¶23} Each IQ test has a SEM, and the SEM for each test is different. “A test’s
SEM is a statistical fact, a reflection of the inherent imprecision of the test itself.” Id. at
713-714 (citations omitted). “An individual’s IQ test score on any given exam may
fluctuate for a variety of reasons,” such as the subject’s health, the examiner’s demeanor,
the practice effect, environment or location, subjective scoring of certain questions, and
even guessing. Id. at 713, citing the AAIDD-11 User’s Guide (2012). “The SEM reflects
the reality that an individual’s intellectual functioning cannot be reduced to a single
numerical score. For purposes of most IQ tests, the SEM means that an individual’s
score is best understood as a range of scores on either side of the recorded score [e.g.,
five points on either side] * * * within which one may say an individual’s true IQ score lies.”
{¶24} The Hall Court further explained: “The legal determination of intellectual
disability is distinct from a medical diagnosis, but it is informed by the medical
community’s diagnostic framework. * * *[This] is of particular help here, where no
alternative definition of intellectual disability is presented and where this Court and the
States have placed substantial reliance on the expertise of the medical profession.” Id.
at 721-722.
{¶25} The next year, applying its decision in Hall, the United States Supreme
Court found unreasonable a state court’s finding that a defendant’s IQ score of 75 was
inconsistent with subaverage intelligence when, accounting for the SEM, the score was
“squarely in the range of potential intellectual disability.” Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. 305,
314-316 (2015).
{¶26} In 2017, the United States Supreme Court held that, “[i]n determining the
significance of adaptive deficits, clinicians look to whether an individual’s adaptive
performance falls two or more standard deviations below the mean in any of the three
adaptive skill sets (conceptual, social, and practical).” Moore I, supra, at 1046, citing
AAIDD-11 at 43 and DSM-5 at 33, 38 (“deficits in only one of the three adaptive-skills
domains suffice to show adaptive deficits”) (emphases added). This is a modification of
Atkins’ second prong, which required significant limitations in at least two adaptive skill
areas. Two years later, the Supreme Court again emphasized the need for judicial
scrutiny of the adaptive behavior prong in accordance with clinical guidelines and
recommendations. Moore v. Texas, 586 U.S. ___, 139 S.Ct. 666 (2019) (“Moore II”).
{¶27} Thus, the updated definition of intellectual disability from the United States
Supreme Court contains three core elements: (1) “intellectual-functioning deficits
(indicated by an IQ score ‘approximately two standard deviations below the mean,’—i.e.,
a score of roughly 70—adjusted for ‘the standard error of measurement’),” (2) significant
adaptive deficits (indicated by “performance that falls two or more standard deviations
below the mean”) in any of the three adaptive skill set domains (conceptual, social,
practical), and (3) the onset of these deficits while still a minor. Moore I at 1045-1046,
citing Hall at 709-710 and AAIDD-11 at 27, 43, supra.
Supreme Court of Ohio
{¶28} Applying these updates in Ford, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that the
Lott Test is outdated to the extent it (1) required a finding of significant limitations in two
or more adaptive skills and (2) applied a rebuttable presumption that an offender is not
intellectually disabled if his or her IQ score is above 70. Ford, supra, at ¶97, citing Lott,
supra, at ¶12. “IQ scores are imprecise and ‘should be read not as a single fixed number
but as a range.’” Id., quoting Hall, supra, at 712.
{¶29} The Ford Court further held that a trial court should consider evidence
presented on the “Flynn Effect,” which is a “‘generally recognized phenomenon’ in which
the average IQ scores produced by any given IQ test tend to rise over time, often by
approximately three points per ten years from the date the IQ test is initially standardized.”
Id. at ¶87, quoting Black v. Carpenter, 866 F.3d 734, 738, fn. 1 (6th Cir.2017) (internal
quotations omitted). The Flynn Effect is distinct from the SEM. Id. “The AAIDD
recommends that in ‘cases in which a test with aging norms is used as part of a diagnosis
of [intellectual disability], a corrected Full Scale IQ upward of 3 points per decade for age
of the norms is warranted.’” Id. at ¶90, quoting AAIDD-11 at 23. Because it was not
discussed in Hall or Moore I, however, the Ford Court held that it is within the trial court’s
discretion whether to include the Flynn Effect as a factor in the IQ scores. Id. at ¶92.
{¶30} The Ohio Supreme Court concluded Ford with an updated definition for
state courts to apply when determining whether an offender is intellectually disabled for
purposes of the death penalty. Courts must consider the following three core elements:
(1) intellectual-functioning deficits (indicated by an IQ score
approximately two standard deviations below the mean—i.e., a score
of roughly 70 or lower when adjusted for the [SEM]);
(2) significant adaptive deficits in any of the three adaptive-skill sets
(conceptual, social, and practical); and
(3) the onset of these deficits while the defendant was a minor.
Id. at ¶100.
Standard of Review
{¶31} The procedures for postconviction relief outlined in R.C. 2953.21 et seq.
provide the statutory framework for reviewing an Atkins claim. The petitioner raising an
Atkins claim bears the burden of establishing that he or she is intellectually disabled by a
preponderance of the evidence. Lott, supra, at ¶13, ¶21 (citations omitted).
{¶32} In considering an Atkins claim, the trial court shall conduct a de novo review
of the evidence in determining whether the petitioner is intellectually disabled. “The trial
court may consider expert testimony and appoint experts if necessary in deciding this
issue. The trial court shall make written findings and set forth its rationale for finding the
defendant intellectually disabled or not intellectually disabled.” Ford, supra, at ¶100.
{¶33} The trial court’s decision on a postconviction Atkins claim should be upheld
absent an abuse of discretion. A reviewing court should not overrule the trial court’s
finding on a petition for postconviction relief that is supported by competent and credible
evidence. State v. White, 118 Ohio St.3d 12, 2008-Ohio-1623, ¶45, citing State v.
Gondor, 112 Ohio St.3d 377, 2006-Ohio-6679, ¶58. “‘The term “abuse of discretion” * * *
implies that the court’s attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable.’” Id. at ¶46,
quoting State v. Adams, 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157 (1980) (citations omitted). It also
“connotes that a court’s judgment lacks reason or runs contrary to the record.” State v.
Benchea, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2015-T-0054, 2016-Ohio-1369, ¶29 (citation omitted).
In the context of an Atkins claim, “States have some flexibility, but not ‘unfettered
discretion.’” Moore I, supra, at 1052, quoting Hall, supra, at 718. “[T]he medical
community’s current standards, reflecting improved understanding over time, constrain
States’ leeway in this area.” Id. at paragraph (d) of the syllabus. Courts must, therefore,
“adequately inform itself of the ‘medical community’s diagnostic framework.’” Id., quoting
Hall, supra, at 721.
Williams’ Atkins Claim
School Records
{¶34} Williams’ school records show that he was held back in the first grade and
the eighth grade. At the age of six he was designated for “educable mentally retarded”
classes and continued in special education/adjusted curriculum until the tenth grade. At
that point, Williams’ was removed from the special education program by his
grandmother, and soon after he dropped out of high school. The following is a more
detailed, but not exhaustive, summary of Williams’ Permanent Record Card:
First Grade
{¶35} Williams was required to repeat the first grade. The first time through, at
age 6, he received an “F” in Reading, a “D” in Arithmetic, and a “C” in language and
writing. He was absent 17 days. His teachers observed his behavior was consistent with
a learning disability: distractible, immature, disorganized.
{¶36} The school psychologist administered the Slossen Intelligence Test
(“Slossen”), which is not an IQ test, but rather a screening tool used to determine whether
further testing was needed. Williams scored 82, which prompted the school psychologist
to administer the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale two months later. Williams scored 76,
which was reported as within the “educable mentally retarded” (“EMR”) range of ability.
He exhibited good ability in counting objects but was “extremely weak” on any items
requiring visual-motor coordination. Williams was also administered the Wide Range
Achievement Test (“WRAT”), which showed his fine motor development was at a preschool level and all other skills were below his grade level. The report described Williams
as having poor listening skills, moving constantly, singing to himself, a pleasant child who
is hyperactive and distractible. It was recommended Williams join the EMR unit and
receive tutoring from upper-grade students. The school psychologist found Williams
qualified for the Diagnostic Reading Program, where he continued to experience difficulty.
{¶37} The second time through the first grade, at age 7, he received a “D” in both
reading and arithmetic, and “Cs” in language and writing. He was absent 7 days. His
conduct was unsatisfactory: distracted, fidgety, disorganized.
Second and Third Grade
{¶38} At age 8 and 9, Williams received “Cs” in spelling and reading, which was
taught to him at a grade level behind. His other grades, where indicated, were “Ds” and
“Fs”. He was absent a combined total of 6 days these two years.
Fourth Grade
{¶39} At age 10, Williams was placed in the Adjusted Curriculum classes, or
“special education,” where he remained for the rest of his time in school. He was also
assigned an Individual Education Plan (“IEP”), which continued throughout his time in
school. Williams received “Cs” in spelling and reading, which were taught to him at the
lower grade level; and “Ds” where the other grades were indicated. He was absent less
than 5 days.
{¶40} Williams’ teacher requested another psychological evaluation based on his
immature and impulsive behavior. At age 11, the school psychologist administered the
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Form L-M test (“Stanford Binet L-M”), on which Williams
scored 78. This placed him within the “adjusted curriculum or slow learner range, which
usually includes IQs of between 51 and 80.” He was also administered the WRAT, which
noted multiple deficiencies. It was reported that Williams functioned at a mental age of 8
years, 9 months.
Fifth Grade
{¶41} Williams was taught at the fourth-grade level in all classes and attained “Bs”
in science and geography/history; all other grades were “Ds”. His IEP plan goals included
being able to “write his name clean.” He was absent 2 days.
Sixth Grade
{¶42} At age 12, Williams transferred to another location in the school system for
additional Independent Adjusted Curriculum support. He was taught at a third-grade level
in reading, language, spelling, science, and geography/history; and at a fourth-grade level
in arithmetic. Williams received “Bs” in all his classes except for a “C” in spelling. He was
absent 2 days.
Seventh Grade
{¶43} At age 13, Williams missed 9 days of his first year at the junior high school.
He participated in the regular curriculum classes for art, music, and physical education.
Williams received a grade of “1” (Below Average) in English, geography, science, math,
physical education, and art; “2” (Average) in music; and “3” (Good) in practical arts. His
IEP identified many learning and academic deficits (e.g., attention span and reading
comprehension) as well as emotional challenges (e.g., self-control).
Eighth Grade
{¶44} At age 14, Williams completed the eighth grade for the first time. He was
absent less than 6 days. He achieved grades of “0” (Unsatisfactory) in history and math;
“1” (Below Average) in English, science, and physical education; “2” (Average) in art; “3”
(Good) in practical arts; and “4” (Excellent) in music.
{¶45} At age 15, Williams was required to repeat the eighth grade. He was absent
9 days. He received grades of “1” (Below Average) in all classes except for a “2”
(Average) in art and “3” (Good) in music and practical arts. His teachers observed that
Williams was disruptive in the classroom and did not socialize appropriately with his
{¶46} Williams was administered the standardized Wechsler Intelligence Scale for
Children, Revised (“WISC-R”), on which he scored a 67. His score was reported as within
the Developmentally Handicapped range. He was also administered the standardized
Vineland Social Maturity Scale, which is based upon direct observational reports of
Williams’ teachers. Williams was assessed at a “social age” of only 9 years, 0 months.
He exhibited deficiencies in communication, occupation, locomotion, and self-direction.
On a developmental test of visual-motor integration, with a mean of 10 and standard
deviation of 3, Williams scored a 2. This was reported as an age equivalent of 8 years, 7
{¶47} A “Team Evaluation” conducted by the principal, counselor, psychologist,
and developmentally handicapped teacher reported: “At that time the members of the
team determined that [he] continues to qualify for the Developmentally Handicapped
Program with the Warren City Schools.”
Ninth Grade
{¶48} At age 16, Williams was absent 3 days of his first year in the high school.
He attended regular classes for art, music, physical education, and practical arts, and
developmentally handicapped classes in the remaining subjects. He received grades of
“0”, “1”, and “2”.
Tenth Grade
{¶49} At age 17, despite recommendations of school officials and the
developmentally handicapped team, Williams’ grandmother removed him from the
Developmentally Handicapped Program at the high school. Williams was placed in the
regular curriculum and received “0s” in every subject. He was absent a total of 59 days
before dropping out of high school.
Test Scores
{¶50} Williams’ intelligence functioning (IQ) test scores are summarized as
1973 6 yrs, 5 mos. 82 Slossen (screen)
School psychologist 6 yrs, 7 mos. 76 Stanford Binet
1978 11 yrs., 1 mo. 78 Stanford Binet L-M
1983 15 yrs., 11 mo. 67 WISC-R
2003 36 yrs. 75 WAIS-III Dr. Eisenberg
2009 43 yrs. 69 Stanford Binet-V Dr. Lecavalier
2016 49 yrs. 68 WAIS-IV Dr. Hartung
{¶51} The four oldest tests were administered when Williams was under the age
of 18 and a student in the Warren City School System. In 1973, at the age of 6 years, he
scored 82 on the Slossen, a screening test, and two months later scored 76 on the
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. The latter score was reported as an “educable mentally
retarded” range of ability. In 1978, at the age of 11 years, Williams scored 78 on the
Stanford-Binet L-M. In 1983, at nearly 16 years of age, Williams scored 67 on the WISCR.
{¶52} The three most recent tests were administered by psychologists while
Williams was incarcerated. In 2003, at the age of 36 years, Dr. James Eisenberg, Ph.D.,
administered the Wechsler Adult Scale of Intelligence (3d Ed.) (“WAIS-III”) for purposes
of Williams’ first Atkins petition. Williams’ full scale IQ score was 75, which the courtordered psychologist reported placed him in the borderline range of intelligence. Dr.
Eisenberg concluded to a reasonable psychological certainty that Williams is significantly
impaired in all areas of intellectual functioning, both verbal and nonverbal, but did not
meet the criteria of “mentally retarded” under the now-outdated rebuttable presumption in
the Lott Test.
{¶53} In 2009, at age 43, Williams scored 69 on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence
Scale, Fifth Edition (“Stanford Binet-V”), which was administered by Dr. Luc Lecavalier.
{¶54} Finally, in 2016, at age 49, Williams’ current defense expert administered
the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th Edition (“WAIS-IV”) for purposes of the
evidentiary hearing before the trial court. Williams’ full scale IQ score was 68.
{¶55} The other three expert witnesses, one for the defense and two for the state,
declined to administer a standardized IQ test, citing either a trust in the validity of
previously administered tests and/or the “practice effect,” which is the accepted theory
that one is likely to “learn” and do slightly better on a test that is administered repeatedly.
{¶56} Williams’ adaptive behavior test scores are summarized as follows:
1983 15 yrs., 11 mo. age 9 yrs
(“57”) Vineland School psychologist
2009 43 yrs. 61 SIB-R Dr. Lecavalier
2016 49 yrs. 65 ABAS-3 Dr. Hartung
79 ABAS-3 Dr. Dreyer
{¶57} In 1983, at nearly 16 years of age, the school psychologist administered the
standardized Vineland Social Maturity Scale (“Vineland”), based upon direct
observational reports of Williams’ teachers. The test was not numerically scored, but
Williams was assessed at a “social age” of only 9 years, zero months old. At the hearing,
a defense expert testified that he calculated Williams’ global score to be approximately
{¶58} In 2009, at age 43, Dr. Lecavalier administered the standardized Scales of
Independent Behavior-Revised (“SIB-R”), on which Williams scored 61.
{¶59} In 2016, at age 49, Williams was administered the Adaptive Behavior
Assessment System, 3rd Edition (“ABAS-3”) by his defense expert and by the state’s
expert. With the former, he scored 65; with the latter, he scored 79.
Expert Witnesses for Williams
Dr. Thomas Sullivan
{¶60} Dr. Thomas Sullivan, Ph.D., a member of the APA and a neuropsychologist,
was employed by Williams in 2014 to conduct a neuropsychological evaluation in order
to rule out any organic brain injury. Dr. Sullivan has testified in over 100 cases, but this
was his first Aktins case. He performed a clinical evaluation, conducted multiple
standardized tests, and reviewed Williams’ educational and prison records. His
evaluation revealed, inter alia, impaired abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills;
illogical statements; and frequent and atypical word substitution errors. Williams showed
sufficient performance on the test used to assess for malingering. Dr. Sullivan opined to
a reasonable degree of neuropsychological certainty that Williams does not show any
evidence of brain damage or injury and that Williams is “mildly mentally retarded.”
{¶61} For purposes of his report, Dr. Sullivan relied on the intellectual functioning
and adaptive behavior tests administered in 2009-2010 by Dr. Luc Lecavalier, Ph.D., who
did not testify at the hearing. Dr. Sullivan felt no need to administer his own tests because
he found Dr. Lecavlier’s standardized test results were valid, reliable, and consistent with
his neuropsychological assessment of Williams.
{¶62} Dr. Lecavalier scored Williams at 69 on the Stanford-Binet-V IQ test.
Accounting for the 95% confidence interval, which is similar to the SEM, this scores in the
range of 67-75. Dr. Lecavalier scored Williams at 61 on the SIB-R adaptive behavior test,
with significant limitations present in the categories of social/communication, personal
living skills, and community living. Dr. Lecavalier interviewed Williams about his life
before incarceration and also conducted a retrospective assessment of Williams’ adaptive
behavior by interviewing his cousin, Wanda Vail-Nix, about his adaptive skills before
incarceration. She reported Williams could not hold a job, could not cook, and never had
a driver’s license. Dr. Lecavalier opined to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty
that Williams currently meets diagnostic criteria for “mild mental retardation” and that he
met that criteria in the period of development.
{¶63} At the evidentiary hearing, Dr. Sullivan calculated Williams’ score on the
Vineland Social Maturity Scale, administered in 1983, by dividing the months of Williams’
social age (108) (referred to as “109” at the hearing) by the months of his chronological
age (191) and arrived at a global score of 57.
{¶64} Dr. Sullivan also testified that the school administered the Stanford Binet LM, which was created in 1943. Applying the Flynn Effect, he stated the more accurate
scores for the 1973 and 1978 IQ tests is 66. Consistent with that assessment is the fact
that the school placed Williams in special education classes. Also consistent is the fact
that Williams scored a 67 on the 1983 IQ test, which was currently normed.
{¶65} He further concluded that Williams met the early onset criteria, referring in
part to a 2009 statement from the school psychologist that Williams “continued to be mildly
mentally retarded” at age 15.
Dr. Cynthia Hartung
{¶66} Dr. Cynthia Hartung, Ph.D., is a member of the AAIDD and an associate
professor of psychology and clinic director at the University of Wyoming. She was
employed by Williams to conduct an Atkins assessment. Dr. Hartung has participated in
six other Atkins cases, making a finding of intellectual disability on behalf of the petitioner
in four of them. Dr. Hartung spent approximately five hours with Williams on January 19,
2016, at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. She conducted a clinical interview,
reviewed Williams’ educational and prison records, and administered the following
standardized tests: WAIS-IV IQ test, ABAS-3 adaptive behavior test, Test of Memory
Malingering (“TOMM”), Gray Oral Reading Test–Fifth Edition (“GORT-5”), and Wechsler
Individual Achievement Test–Third Edition (“WIAT-III”). Dr. Hartung produced a ninepage report, concluding with a high degree of clinical certainty that Williams has a mild
intellectual disability and has been functioning at this level since childhood.
{¶67} Dr. Hartung testified to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that
Williams’ school records are evidence that he met the age of onset criterion. She reported
it was unclear which version of the Stanford Binet the school administered to Williams in
1973, but testified it was her “best guess” that it was the Stanford-Binet II, which would
have been 36 years past norming. She therefore used the Flynn Effect to down-score
Williams’ score of 76 on that test to an adjusted score of 65. Additionally, Dr. Hartung
testified the 1983 test was different than what was administered the first two times, and
that an 11-point drop is not statistically significant when considering the SEM, “which can
be five or six points in either direction”: “it would have to be one and a half standard
deviations for it to be considered statistically significant, so it would have to be 21 or 22
{¶68} Williams’ scores on the TOMM did not suggest to Dr. Hartung that he was
malingering. The results of the GORT-5 indicate a reading ability similar to that of an
average 8- to 9-year old. The WIAT-III subtests of individual achievement reflect a
reading and spelling ability consistent with his estimated IQ, but that his writing ability is
“somewhat stronger than predicted” and “is an adaptive behavior he appears to have
developed through practice.”
{¶69} Williams obtained a full scale IQ score of 68 on the WAIS-IV IQ test.
Considering the 95% “confidence interval,” which is similar to the SEM, his true score is
in the range of 65 to 73, which falls in the category of Extremely Low to Very Low and
places Williams in the mild intellectual disability range. His overall performance was in
the 2nd percentile, meaning he scored lower than 96% of individuals his age. She
testified that she did not administer the optional subtests because they are only
administered if the standard subtests are “spoiled.”
{¶70} Dr. Hartung administered the ABAS-3, which consists of approximately 300
questions covering the three skill set domains of adaptive behavior, each with their own
subtests. Williams earned a global composite score of 65. Each response is scored 0 to
3 to calculate a composite score in each domain and subtest scores in each of the three
domains. For reference, subtest scores have a mean of 10 with a standard deviation of
3. Below is a summary of Williams’ domain and subtest scores:
CONCEPTUAL (65) Communication
Functional Academics
SOCIAL (70) Leisure
PRACTICAL (67) Community Use
Home Living
Health & Safety
{¶71} Dr. Hartung administered the test directly to Williams and also to three
“informants.” Here, the informants were all individuals who knew Williams prior to his
incarceration in 1988: two cousins, Wanda Vail-Nix and Cheri Moore, and Williams’ exgirlfriend and mother of his child, Audreana Smith. Their global composite scores were
56, 54, and 53, respectively. Dr. Hartung reported that the scores all indicate Williams’
adaptive skills are lower than 99.0 to 99.9% of adults and have been severely limited
since childhood. His scores place him in the mild intellectual disability range.
{¶72} At the evidentiary hearing, Dr. Hartung explained that she used the
informants because the AAIDD recommends administering the test to multiple people
who knew the subject in the general community and because “people with intellectual
disabilities, and also children, are not particularly good reporters of their own adaptive
functioning and they usually tend to overestimate their own abilities.”
{¶73} Dr. Hartung acknowledged there are concerns in the field with using the
ABAS-3 retrospectively. It is not designed to be used in a prison setting and the test
instructions mandate that the informants have frequent, recent, and prolonged contact
with the test subject. However, because the interviews were confined to the period of
time prior to Williams’ incarceration, none of the informants had recent observations to
report. Further, because they did not testify at the evidentiary hearing, there is no
indication as to how frequent or prolonged their contact with Williams was prior to his
incarceration. Dr. Hartung also acknowledged that family and friend informants may have
incentive to make the offender appear less capable then he or she really is. She further
testified, however, that using the informants can diminish the risk of a retrospective
valuation because they can provide “convergent validity,” as they did here, where all of
the informants’ scores were consistent with each other and with Williams’ scores, both
past and present.
{¶74} Dr. Hartung testified that assessing adaptive behavior within the prison
community, as the state’s expert did, is an unstandardized administration of the ABAS-3
that does not translate properly. She explained that when you place an intellectually
disabled person in a structured setting, such as prison, they function much higher than
they would in the general community. Thus, the fact that an individual is functioning better
in prison than in the general community actually supports a diagnosis of intellectual
disability. For instance, the fact that Williams remembers he needs his medication in the
prison does not mean he is capable of remembering to take it every day on his own in the
community setting.
{¶75} The trial court expressed concern with the ABAS-3 because the two
evaluating experts received different scores. The court stated it wanted to review the raw
data, including the questions and answers. Dr. Hartung explained to the court that it
would be unethical for her to report the raw data in a psychological report because it is
not meaningful without converting the data to standard scores. In other words, the trial
court would now know how to interpret the raw data.
{¶76} Following the hearing, the trial court ordered Dr. Hartung to produce the raw
data of her ABAS-3 testing. Dr. Hartung declined to release the data to the court, citing
professional, ethical, and legal constraints.
Dr. Stephen Greenspan
{¶77} In a preliminary ruling prior to the hearing, the trial court denied Williams’
request to call Dr. Stephen Greenspan, Ph.D., as an expert witness because his
testimony “would amount to needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” At the
hearing, defense counsel proffered Dr. Greenspan’s 19-page summary (“Declaration”) of
the scope and specific issues upon which he would testify if permitted. At the conclusion
of the hearing, the trial court again addressed the testimony of Dr. Greenspan, this time
excluding it on the basis that he was being called solely as a teaching expert, rather than
an evaluating expert.
Lay Witnesses for Williams
Affidavits of Family Members
{¶78} With his Atkins petition, Williams submitted several affidavits and
declarations of family members, including the ABAS-3 informants, who averred to
significant intellectual weaknesses evident throughout his life. They all were of the
opinion that Williams was “slow” and unable to perform many tasks other people his age
should be able to perform.
{¶79} Wanda Vail-Nix, a cousin of Williams, related the following in her affidavit:
she never witnessed Williams doing school work, house work, cooking, or doing laundry;
she never heard him have an intelligent conversation with anyone; she never saw him
read a book or newspaper or heard him tell a story; Williams did not have a driver’s
license; he would throw things when he became angry; she heard other family members
refer to Williams as “mentally retarded,” though she and her siblings thought he was just
“extremely bad”; she has never known him to live alone; at age 20, Williams still behaved
as if he was 15 years old, performing childlike pranks.
{¶80} Cheri Moore, another cousin of Williams, explained the following in her
affidavit: “everyone” knew Williams was “slow,” but his grandmother would not allow
further testing or provide tutoring; she never saw Williams play board games; Williams
colored outside the lines when he was old enough to do better; Williams could not really
do any chores, so his grandmother always helped him; his speech and language were
“off”; he would write and use words where they did not belong; he did not have a driver’s
license and could not drive.
{¶81} Teddy Ricks, a second cousin, testified to the following in her affidavit:
Williams never seemed “normal” to her; he did not know the rules of kickball; she was
embarrassed by Williams because he would “be so dumb about things”; when Williams
was sent to the store, he would come back with the wrong items and no change; she
could “see his slight retarded-ness in his facial expressions, the way he talked, and held
his lips, and how he talked like a little girl.” Ms. Ricks also testified at the evidentiary
{¶82} Audreana Smith, Williams’ ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, stated
the following in an unsworn document, titled “Declaration”: she thought Williams was
younger than he was when they first met—he was 18 and she was 14—because they
were able to converse on the same level; Williams never wrote a love letter or poem; he
never called her on the telephone, he only showed up to her house; Williams did not want
to drive and was not a good driver; she never saw Williams read a book or newspaper;
she did see him look at football magazines but was never sure if he read the articles or
just looked at the pictures; she never saw Williams count money or pay a bill when they
went out to eat; when he got upset, he would react like a child.
Rebuttal Witness
{¶83} In rebuttal to the state’s witnesses, Williams also presented testimony of
Tyrone Ballew, a fellow death row inmate. Ballew testified that he has been a tutor to
Williams, both formally and informally, while incarcerated together for the past
approximately 25 years. He approximated that he spent over 100 hours teaching Williams
to read, write, and do basic math at Lucasville Correctional Institution. This formal tutoring
lasted around two years, and he continued to work with Williams informally when they
transferred to other institutions. Ballew testified that when they were incarcerated
together at Mansfield Correctional Institution, every death row inmate had to have a job:
his job was tutor, and Williams’ job was student. Ballew testified that Williams has
increased his academic skills, but still receives help with reading and writing, sometimes
on the JPAY system.
State’s Evidence
Expert Witness for the State
Dr. Carla Dreyer
{¶84} The state countered with the expert report and testimony of Dr. Carla
Dreyer, Psy.D., a psychologist with the Court Clinic Forensic Services in Cincinnati. She
conducts and supervises evaluations for intellectual disability. Dr. Dreyer was employed
by the state to conduct an Atkins assessment of Williams. She has consulted on or
performed six Atkins evaluations. In none of those cases had she found the petitioner
intellectually disabled. Dr. Dreyer spent approximately three hours and fifteen minutes
with Williams on March 15, 2016, at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. She
conducted a clinical interview; reviewed Williams’ educational, court, and prison records;
and administered the TOMM and ABAS-3 standardized tests. Dr. Dreyer produced a 31-
page report, concluding Williams meets the criteria for Borderline Intellectual Functioning
but that he does not meet, and has never met, the criteria for an intellectual disability.
{¶85} She testified that the Slossen, which was administered in 1973, should be
reviewed with caution because it is a screening test, but that Williams’ score of 82 placed
him in the low average range of intellectual functioning. She also noted concern with the
score of 67 on the WISC-R and with the results of the Vineland, which were administered
in 1983, “because if you look at the other data from the prison and Mr. Williams’ own selfreport, this testing was completed at a time when he was using alcohol on almost a daily
basis and going to, reportedly going to school in an intoxicated state.”
{¶86} Dr. Dreyer chose not to administer an IQ test, citing the “practice effect.”
She did not question Dr. Hartung’s decision to not administer the optional subtests on the
WAIS-IV. She did raise a concern, however, because Williams indicated he had
previously abused cough and cold medication up to the day before meeting with Dr.
Hartung, so Dr. Dreyer was “not sure of how either having or not having that available to
him on that day with the testing would have impacted the score.” She acknowledged,
however, that she had no information to substantiate whether the test results were invalid
because Williams may have been high.
{¶87} Dr. Dreyer also administered the ABAS-3 to Williams, the same adaptive
behavior test used by Dr. Hartung. She did not administer the test to any informants,
however, citing concerns with bias, unreliability of remote memories, and questions
relating to the use of technology that was unavailable to Williams prior to his incarceration
and that is now unavailable in prison. Dr. Dreyer also testified that roughly one-third of
the tasks surveyed in the test are not available to an inmate in a prison setting. As such,
she worked with Williams to relate some of the questions to functions actually performed
in a prison environment. Dr. Dreyer acknowledged that when Williams was first
incarcerated, his grammar was not particularly good, and his handwriting was akin to that
of a child younger than the age of 10.
{¶88} Dr. Dreyer scored Williams higher than Dr. Hartung had, with a global
composite score of 79. This score, similar to an IQ test, indicates borderline low average
functioning. Below is a summary of his domain and subtest scores:
Functional Academics
SOCIAL (86) Leisure
Community Use
Home Living
Health & Safety
Self-Care 9
{¶89} Dr. Dreyer testified that, inconsistent with intellectual disability, Williams has
impressive knowledge of current events and the procedural history of his court case and
uses multiple forms of communication with others. She recognized indications of
significant limitations in two adaptive skills—self-direction and health & safety—but it was
her opinion that the low scores may have been impacted by a number of variables,
including a lack of motivation, impulsiveness, and perceived antisocial personality. She
acknowledged that her diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder was not based on any
standardized assessment. Dr. Dreyer further testified that an antisocial personality may
lower adaptive functioning scores but agreed the clinical consensus is that comorbid
disorders do not rule out the possibility of intellectual disability.
{¶90} Dr. Dreyer scored Williams higher in the social domain due to his ability to
use the JPAY system and because he keeps a log of his outgoing emails and responses.
With respect to the practical domain, Dr. Dreyer testified to Williams’ ability to use and
retrieve medications; request assistance from an officer for needed repairs in his cell; and
obsessive cleanliness. Based on her testing and observations, Dr. Dreyer testified that
Williams does not meet the adaptive functioning prong of intellectual disability, as he does
not demonstrate significant limitations in two or more adaptive skills as referenced in Lott.
{¶91} Dr. Dreyer further opined that there is no proof Williams suffered from
intellectual disability as a minor. She found no diagnosis of mental retardation anywhere
in Williams’ childhood records. Further, she testified that the school’s designation of
Williams as “educable mentally retarded” and placement in special education courses is
evidence of learning difficulties but does not necessarily equate to an intellectual disability
diagnosis. Dr. Dreyer testified that the 1973 and 1978 Stanford-Binet scores of 76 and
78 would not have resulted in a diagnosis of mental retardation, and that the 1978 report
states Williams “is one of the higher functioning adjusted curriculum students.” She
testified that his 1983 WISC-R score of 67 would have placed him in the range of mental
retardation but opined that the significant and sudden decline suggested three possible
explanations: brain injury, lack of motivation, or alcohol abuse. Dr. Dreyer also
questioned the reliability of the 1983 Vineland adaptive functioning test because the
informant was unknown, and Williams reported drinking alcohol on a daily basis when he
was in high school. Unlike Williams’ experts, Dr. Dreyer refused to use the Flynn Effect
to down-score any of his earlier IQ scores. She testified that post hoc rescoring is not
generally done in clinical practice and, in her experience, use of the Flynn Effect only
seems to occur during Atkins evaluations.
Court-Appointed Expert Witness
Dr. Thomas Gazley
{¶92} Finally, Dr. Thomas Gazley, Ph.D., is a forensic psychologist and former
special education teacher. He was appointed by the trial court to conduct an independent
Atkins assessment of Williams. Dr. Gazley is currently employed at the Forensic
Psychiatric Center of Northeast Ohio, performing forensic evaluations for area courts.
This case was his fourth Atkins assessment.
{¶93} Dr. Gazley spent approximately two and one-half hours with Williams on
March 21, 2016, at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. Dr. Gazley performed a clinical
evaluation, which included a conversation about Williams’ day-to-day routines at the
prison and current events. He submitted a 20-page report to the court. Dr. Gazley’s
clinical assessment was that “Overall general intelligence based on language and
vocabulary use today is estimated to be within the borderline range. Congruent with this
impression is Williams’ casual conversation, his attempt to use humor, and his
descriptions of how he gets along on death row.” Dr. Gazely’s informal assessment
revealed to him that Williams functions within his schedule; communicates adequately
with other inmates and staff; has the ability to make his needs known; compulsively
maintains a clean environment; takes care of his hygiene and daily self-care; writes “kites”
and commissary lists; uses a dictionary; makes rational conversation; knows of current
events; interacts socially; and plays games. At the hearing, he agreed the assessment
was speculative and that, while Williams’ showed an ability to adapt to life on death row,
none of those traits were sophisticated enough to exclude him from being intellectually
{¶94} He further reported that “adaptive behavior of long term death row inmates
is extremely difficult to measure, given the inmate’s limited access to the day in and day
out activities of the general community population.” It is his opinion that any adaptive
behavior measures utilized while Williams is in prison provide an “inadequate assessment
of adaptive behavior as intended for use in diagnosing mental retardation” because they
cannot “be administered in a standardized and reliable manner.” Dr. Gazley testified that
adaptive skill deficits should be assessed within the community in which the person
presently lives but that there are no standardized tests normed for death row. He further
noted there are certain adaptive behaviors that serve one well as an inmate on death row
but are not needed in the general community, and vice versa.
{¶95} Dr. Gazley did not perform any standardized intelligence testing or adaptive
functioning testing, citing the “practice effect.” He did administer the Wide Range
Achievement Test, Fourth Edition (“WRAT-IV”), which measures current academic
functioning. The WRAT-IV academic functioning test is scored similar to an IQ test.
Williams scored 65 in sentence comprehension, 76 in arithmetic computation, 85 in
spelling, 68 in reading composite, and 75 in word reading. Dr. Gazley reported that
Williams’ scores on the WRAT-IV are better than one might predict given the scores on
three out of his last four IQ tests (67, 68, and 69). Dr. Gazley testified that measuring
academic achievement is a different process than measuring intellectual functioning
because the former does not directly address intellectual potential or cognitive abilities.
He further acknowledged that neither the AAIDD nor the APA would rate the WRAT-IV as
a standardized IQ test.
{¶96} Dr. Gazley reported that he found no evidence that Williams was diagnosed
with mental retardation as a minor or that he was enrolled in community services that
would have been available to a minor with that diagnosis. He reported that the school’s
designation of “educable mentally retarded” was a category of academic placement and
did not equate to a diagnosis of “mental retardation.” His testimony was that with regard
to age of onset, “there needs to be a determination” of intellectual disability or an
“established disability” prior to the age of 18. Dr. Gazley also did not use the Flynn Effect
to down-score older IQ scores, referring to the practice as controversial in the field.
{¶97} After reviewing all the available data, Dr. Gazley opined with reasonable
psychological certainty that Williams has Borderline intellectual functioning and, due to
his adaptive behavior allowing adequate functioning within his environment and culture
and the fact he was never diagnosed with “mild mental retardation” prior to the age of 18,
Williams does not suffer from “mild mental retardation” as defined in Lott.
{¶98} Dr. Gazley also testified that a note Williams wrote to the prison warden to
waive his appearance at the evidentiary hearing was more sophisticated than someone
with an IQ of 67 or 68 would write. He testified that Williams has demonstrated the
capacity to learn and understand more than one would think given the IQ scores and
concluded that Williams’ intellectual functioning falls within the borderline range, not
intellectually disabled.
{¶99} Dr. Gazley testified that prior to interviewing Williams and writing his report,
he did not use or consult any of the APA’s most recent manuals, including the DSM-5 and
the DSM-IV, and he had never used the AAIDD-11. He was not familiar with any of the
AAIDD’s tests. He acknowledged, however, that these were the basic texts establishing
the best clinical practices for assessing intellectual disability. He further acknowledged
that portions of his report dealing with the SEM and confidence intervals were taken from
a technical assistance paper that discussed program eligibility and placement of gifted
and learning disabled children, not the assessment of intellectual disability.
{¶100} Williams’ filed a motion for an order to strike the report and testimony of Dr.
Gazley, which the state opposed, and the trial court denied by judgment entry.
Lay Witnesses for the State
{¶101} The state presented testimony of three lay witnesses who have supervised
Williams within the prison system.
{¶102} An investigator with Chillicothe Correctional Institution was presented, who
explained the JPAY system. Inmates must set up an account, designate a password,
and remember the password. They must also be able to operate their own handheld
device—similar to an electronic tablet—plug it into a central kiosk, and log onto the
system. The Investigator presented video surveillance of Williams using the JPAY kiosk
and copies of emails sent by Williams and received by him from individuals outside the
prison. A case worker also testified to the video of Williams using the JPAY kiosk, which
shows him typing lengthy correspondence without assistance from any other individuals.
The correspondence was introduced, which show vast improvement in sentence
structure, spelling, punctuation, typing, and handwriting from the time period Williams was
first incarcerated.
{¶103} A Unit Manager at Mansfield Correctional Institution who knew Williams for
seven to eight years while employed as a corrections officer on death row was also
introduced. He testified that Williams had a typewriter in his cell at that time, and he
watched Williams handwrite and type documents without assistance from inmates or staff.
He confirmed Williams’ self-reported abuse of cold medications for recreational purposes.
He did not find Williams gullible or easily led by others and stated Williams always kept
himself and his cell neat without assistance. He described Williams as sociable and able
to play games and stated he had witnessed Williams reading law books in the prison
Judgment of the Trial Court
Intellectual Functioning
{¶104}Intellectual functioning is assessed using an individually administered
standardized IQ test with current normative data. An offender must demonstrate
intellectual functioning deficits by a preponderance of the evidence. This is indicated by
an IQ score approximately two standard deviations below the mean—i.e., a score of
roughly 70 or lower when adjusted for the SEM. The trial court must also consider any
evidence presented as to the Flynn Effect, although it has discretion whether to ultimately
apply the deviation to an IQ score.
{¶105} The trial court considered evidence presented on the Flynn Effect but
declined to recognize it as a factor with respect to Williams’ 1973 Stanford-Binet score of
76 because Dr. Hartung’s testimony as to which version was administered was
“speculative.” The trial court stated, “It is not known with certainty that the Stanford-Binet
administered to Williams was a test with outdated norming so as to justify the application
of the Flynn Effect.”
{¶106} The court made no finding as to Williams’ 1978 Stanford-Binet L-M score of
{¶107} Assumably with regard to Williams’ 1983 score of 67 on the WISC-R, the
trial court mentioned testimony of school representatives, given at the sentencing phase
of Williams’ trial, that a lack of effort and apathy could have accounted for Williams’
decreased scores.
{¶108} The court made no finding as to Williams’ 2003 score of 75 on the WAIS-III
or his 2010 score of 69 on the Stanford Binet-V.
{¶109} With respect to the WAIS-IV administered by Dr. Hartung in 2016, the trial
court noted Dr. Dreyer’s testimony that Williams reported to her that he had abused cough
and cold medication on the day before meeting with Dr. Hartung. This “raised concerns”
with the trial court “about how his substance use could have negatively impacted his test
performance at that point.” The court further referenced Dr. Dreyer’s testimony that she
was concerned about the validity of Williams’ test scores in light of his motivations, based
on an indication to her that he hoped to “get off on Atkins” and then be able to encourage
the Court to look at other appellate issues he believed would exonerate him.
{¶110} Based on these findings and observations, the trial court concluded
Williams’ IQ scores were borderline and did not definitively show that he is intellectually
disabled. Thus, the court followed the mandate of Hall and Moore I, and assessed
Williams’ adaptive behavior.
Adaptive Behavior
{¶111} Adaptive behavior functioning is assessed in two ways: clinical evaluations
and individualized psychometric measures. An offender must demonstrate significant
adaptive behavior deficits in any of the three skill set domains: “conceptual,” “social,” and
“practical.” These skill set domains are explained in the DSM-5 at 37:
The conceptual (academic) domain involves competence in memory,
language, reading, writing, math reasoning, acquisition of practical
knowledge, problem solving, and judgment in novel situations,
among others.
The social domain involves awareness of others’ thoughts, feelings,
and experiences; empathy; interpersonal communication skills;
friendship abilities; and social judgment, among others.
The practical domain involves learning and self-management across
life settings, including personal care, job responsibilities, money
management, recreation, self-management of behavior, and school
and work task organization, among others.
The relevant and often-tested subsets of these domains are communication, self-care,
home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional
academics, leisure, and work. Atkins, supra, at 308, fn. 3, citing AAMR and APA
{¶112} By definition, intellectually disabled offenders “have diminished capacities
to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and
learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to
understand the reactions of others.” Id. at 318.
{¶113}In Moore I and Moore II, the United States Supreme Court repeatedly
accentuated that when evaluating adaptive behavior, it is error for a court to (1)
overemphasize and rely more upon an offender’s perceived adaptive strengths as
opposed to his adaptive deficits; (2) rely upon an offender’s adaptive strengths or
improvements developed while in prison; (3) require an offender to prove that certain
deficits are related to an intellectual disability rather than a personality disorder or other
mental-health issue, as they can exist simultaneously; and (4) relying on factors that do
not correspond with clinical definitions of intellectual disability and suggest “lay
{¶114} Here, the trial court questioned whether it could consider the affidavits of
Williams’ family members, given the United States Supreme Court’s caution against
relying on lay perceptions of intellectual disability. Moore I, supra, at 1052 (“But the
medical profession has endeavored to counter lay stereotypes of the intellectually
disabled. Those stereotypes, much more than medical and clinical appraisals, should
spark skepticism.”).
{¶115} The court further noted that while each of the experts agreed that assessing
adaptive behavior with a standardized measure while in a prison environment presented
a challenge, they disagreed that there was consensus on how to administer the ABAS-3,
and each expert evaluated adaptive deficits in different ways.
{¶116} The trial court acknowledged that the AAIDD cautions against assessing
adaptive functioning in a prison setting and recommends the ABAS-3 be administered to
informants retrospectively—i.e., addressing the subject’s adaptive functioning prior to
incarceration. The trial court noted general concerns with the ABAS-3, such as: it does
not take into account the subject’s motivation, or lack thereof; a comorbid diagnosis of
personality disorders can have an effect on the results of a self-reporting test; and
discrepancies exist in the scoring between evaluators.
{¶117} The court addressed specific concerns it had with Dr. Hartung’s
administration of the test; to wit: administering the test retrospectively presents issues
with memory and bias on the part of the informants, as well as obsolescence of the
questions; the inapplicability of some questions to life in prison or cultural background;
and the difficulty of assessing the adaptive functioning of an individual who has been in a
non-community setting for so many years. The trial court was also of the belief that
administering the test to informants was the equivalent of relying on lay opinions, and that
Moore I viewed the latter with skepticism.
{¶118} The court also addressed specific concerns it had with Dr. Dreyer’s
administration of the test; to wit: the test is not normed for the prison community, and the
AAIDD cautions against assessing adaptive functioning in a prison setting.
{¶119} The court then noted concerns with the admissibility of the ABAS-3 results
as applied to these particular proceedings under Evid.R. 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). This was due to the lack of consensus
regarding whether to and how to conduct the ABAS-3 in this situation; the fact that the
ABAS-3 was not designed for forensic proceedings in which the offender is so far
removed from the typical community setting; there is insufficient research regarding the
reliability of adaptive behavior instruments when used retrospectively; and the reliability
of ratings that are not based on personal observation of typical behavior must be
evaluated cautiously.
{¶120} With respect to Dr. Hartung’s administration of the ABAS-3, the trial court
concluded that without access to her raw data, it could not find she conducted the test in
such a way that will yield an accurate result under the standards of Evid.R. 702 and
Daubert. Specifically, the trial court found: (1) without access to the raw data, it could not
confirm that the informants’ scores show “convergent validity”; (2) without access to the
raw data, it could not determine whether Williams “guessed” on questions related to items
that were not available to him at the time he was in the community; and (3) Dr. Hartung’s
unwillingness to testify [as to the raw data] “bolsters this Court’s suspicion that the test
results are not reliable and inadmissible in these circumstances.”
{¶121} With respect to Dr. Lecavalier’s administration of the SIB-R in 2009, the trial
court concluded it cannot find the testing meets the standards of Evid.R. 702 and Daubert
based on Dr. Hartung’s testimony that she stopped using the test “because they haven’t
updated their norms,” and “because it appears that Dr. Lecavalier did not administer the
SIB-R in accordance with the ethics guidelines that Hartung insists the APA and the
AAIDD require—specifically that standardized adaptive testing should not be performed
in a prison community.”
{¶122} With respect to the school psychologist’s administration of the Vineland
Social Maturity Scale in 1983, the trial court found it is unclear what the standard score
is, there is no information regarding the informant, and the report does not attest to the
validity of the test.
{¶123}In rejecting Williams’ contention that State v. White, 118 Ohio St.3d 12
(2008) stands for the proposition that the court must credit standardized adaptive
functioning measures in spite of the flaws of the test, the trial court distinguished White
based on the fact that the two testifying experts in that case agreed the defendant was
intellectually disabled. See White, supra, at ¶49-57 (criticizing the trial court’s rejection of
SIB-R results based on its finding that “a number of flaws” in the test compromised the
probative value of the test score, despite the fact that both experts agreed the SIB-R is a
valid and well standardized tool for measuring adaptive skills).
{¶124} The trial court concluded that Dr. Gazley’s opinion as to adaptive deficits
must be afforded more weight even though he did not administer a standardized test,
because it was based on his clinical appraisal of Williams rather than lay opinions of
informants. The court found, with respect to Dr. Gazley, that “although the AAIDD
cautions against assessing adaptive behavior in a structured setting such as a prison, it
also states that as a professional responsibility in the diagnosis and assessment of
adaptive behavior that a clinician must use direct observations of adaptive behavior.”
{¶125} Finally, the trial court found that the “anecdotal evidence” presented in the
family members’ affidavits was insufficient to establish that Williams exhibits significant
limitations in two or more adaptive skills and that some of it “harkens back to the
stereotypes that the Moore Court condemned.”
{¶126} Based on all of the above, the trial court ultimately concluded that Williams
did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has significant limitations in two
or more adaptive skills under the framework set forth in Lott.
Age of Onset
{¶127} An offender must demonstrate the onset of intellectual functioning and
adaptive behavior deficits prior to the age of 18 by a preponderance of the evidence.
Neither clinical guidelines nor court precedent require an official diagnosis of intellectual
disability as a minor in order to meet the “age of onset” criterion. See, e.g., White, supra,
at ¶77-85 (finding the petitioner satisfied the age of onset criterion based solely on
academic records).
{¶128} The court declined to follow this court’s holding in Williams’ previous appeal
that he had met his burden with regard to the age of onset because of the difference in
Williams’ burden on summary judgment (to raise a genuine issue of material fact) as
compared to a full evidentiary hearing (to prove by a preponderance of the evidence).
{¶129} Here, the trial court concluded Williams failed to establish onset of
intellectual disability as a minor based on multiple findings, a summary of which is as
 Even applying a five-point SEM, only one IQ score out of the three tests
administered prior to age 18 places him in the range of intellectual disability,
that being the 1983 score of 67 on the WISC-R.
o We note that if the Flynn Effect was applied to the earlier StanfordBinet tests, all three test scores would be in the range of intellectual
 The 1973 score of 76 on the Stanford-Binet includes a report that Williams
had poor listening skills, was moving constantly, and sang to himself during
most of the session.
 The 1978 score of 78 on the Stanford-Binet is not reliable because the
report did not include a statement whether the test results were valid or as
to Williams’ behavior at the time of the test.
 The 1983 score of 67 on the WISC-R is not reliable because: (1) it was
administered when Williams was 16 years old and there was testimony that
he was drinking alcohol extensively, even at school, during this period; (2)
the report did not contain any specifics as to Williams’ efforts at the time or
any statement whether the test results were valid; an 11-point drop from the
earlier IQ scores could be accounted for by lack of motivation; Williams’
petition even argues the 11-point drop is “suspect”; and Williams’ scores on
the academic achievement test administered by Dr. Gazley are better than
one would expect given his most recent IQ scores.
o We note that this test was administered when Williams was in eighth
grade, and the testimony was that Williams was drinking alcohol
extensively towards the end of his school career, which was the tenth
o We also note that Williams’ argument that the 11-point drop is
“suspect” was for the purpose of arguing ineffective assistance of
counsel for failing to pursue the possibility of brain injury during the
sentencing phase of his trial.
 There were some indications of limitations in adaptive functioning as an
adolescent, including the Vineland Social Maturity Scale, which assessed
Williams with a social age similar to a nine-year-old, with deficiencies in
communication, locomotion, occupation, and self-direction.
 Williams was never given a formal diagnosis of mental retardation prior to
reaching the age of 18.
 At the time Williams was a student, the requirements for being categorized
as “educable mentally retarded” included IQ functioning below 80.
Assignments of Error
{¶130} The trial court concluded Williams failed to carry his burden to prove by a
preponderance of the evidence any of the three prongs of intellectual disability as defined
above. From this judgment, Williams raises five assignments of error for our review:
[1.] The trial court’s conclusion that Williams does not have
significantly subaverage intellectual functioning is an abuse of
discretion as it is based upon arbitrary and capricious factual
[2.] The trial court abused its discretion in finding that Williams does
not meet the adaptive behavior deficits prong for being intellectually
disabled by a preponderance of the evidence.
[3.] The trial court’s conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to
show by a preponderance of the evidence that symptoms of
intellectual disability did not manifest prior to the age of 18 is an
abuse of discretion as it is based upon arbitrary and capricious
factual findings.
[4.] The trial court abused its discretion in qualifying its own chosen
witness, Dr. Thomas Gazley, as an expert for purposes of assessing
intellectual disability.
[5.] The trial court abused its discretion when it refused to permit the
relevant testimony of Dr. Stephen Greenspan as a teaching expert.
{¶131} An amicus brief was filed in support of Williams by Disability Rights Ohio
and The Arc of Ohio. The brief describes Disability Rights Ohio as a not-for-profit
organization designated by the Governor of Ohio as the protection and advocacy system
under federal law for people in Ohio with disabilities, and The Arc of Ohio as the state
affiliate of The Arc of the United States with the mission to advocate for the fundamental
moral, civil, and constitutional rights of people with intellectual and developmental
{¶132} Williams also provided to this court as supplemental authority the May 20,
2020 decision and judgment of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hill v. Anderson, 960
F.3d 260 (6th Cir.2020). In Hill, the Sixth Circuit held that “the Ohio courts avoided giving
serious consideration to past evidence of Hill’s intellectual disability. Doing so amounted
to an unreasonable determination of the facts and an unreasonable application of even
the general Atkins standard.” Id. at 265. The Sixth Circuit instructed the district court to
issue a writ of habeas corpus with respect to the inmate’s death sentence. Id. As of July
15, 2020, however, a majority of the judges of the Sixth Circuit voted for rehearing en
banc of the case. Accordingly, the previous decision and judgment of the court was
vacated, the mandate was stayed, and the case was restored to the docket as a pending
appeal. Hill v. Anderson, 964 F.3d 590 (Mem.) (6th Cir.2020).
{¶133} On appeal, Williams generally argues the trial court demanded proof far
beyond the legal requirement of a preponderance of the evidence; misapplied the U.S.
Supreme Court’s precedent of Atkins, Hall, and Moore; made erroneous findings of fact;
erred in rulings regarding expert witnesses; and thereby abused its discretion in
concluding that Williams proved none of the three criteria for intellectual disability.
Fifth Assignment of Error – Refusal to Permit Teaching Expert Testimony
{¶134} Williams’ fifth assignment of error challenges the trial court’s denial of his
motion to allow and admit the testimony of Dr. Stephen Greenspan as cumulative and
based on the fact that he was a teaching expert, not an evaluating expert.
{¶135}“Trial courts have broad discretion in determining the admissibility of expert
testimony, subject to review for an abuse of discretion.” Terry v. Caputo, 115 Ohio St.3d
351, 2007-Ohio-5023, ¶16, citing Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152
(1999). “‘The term “abuse of discretion” * * * implies that the court’s attitude is
unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable.’” White, supra, at ¶46, quoting State v.
Adams, 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157 (1980) (citations omitted). It also “connotes that a court’s
judgment lacks reason or runs contrary to the record.” Benchea, supra, at ¶29 (citation
omitted). In the context of an Atkins claim, “States have some flexibility, but not
‘unfettered discretion.’” Moore I, supra, at 1052, quoting Hall, supra, at 718. “[T]he
medical community’s current standards, reflecting improved understanding over time,
constrain States’ leeway in this area.” Id. at paragraph (d) of the syllabus. Courts must,
therefore, “adequately inform itself of the ‘medical community’s diagnostic framework.’”
Id., quoting Hall, supra, at 721.
{¶136}“Under Evid.R. 702(B), an expert witness must be ‘qualified as an expert by
specialized knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education regarding the subject
matter of the testimony.’” State v. Poling, 11th Dist. Ashtabula No. 2008-A-0071, 2010-
Ohio-1155, ¶40. Although an expert may be qualified and the testimony relevant, it “may
be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by considerations of undue
delay, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence,” i.e., if it is “additional evidence
of the same kind to the same point” that would not further assist the trier of fact. Evid.R.
403(B); Kroger v. Ryan, 83 Ohio St. 299 (1911), syllabus; Bostic v. Connor, 37 Ohio St.3d
144 (1988), paragraph three of the syllabus. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court of Ohio
iterates that “Courts should favor the admissibility of expert testimony whenever it is
relevant and the criteria of Evid.R. 702 are met.” State v. Nemeth, 82 Ohio St.3d 202,
207 (1998), citing State v. Williams, 4 Ohio St.3d 53, 57-58 (1983); Caputo, supra, at ¶26,
quoting Daubert, supra, at 597 (expert testimony should be admitted when “‘relevant to
the task at hand’” and it “logically advances a material aspect of the proposing party’s
{¶137}In a preliminary ruling prior to the hearing, the trial court denied Williams’
request to call Dr. Greenspan as an expert witness because his testimony “would amount
to needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” At the hearing, defense counsel
proffered Dr. Greenspan’s 19-page Declaration of his qualifications and the scope and
specific issues upon which he would testify if permitted. The first page of his Declaration
states he was “specifically asked not to pass judgment on reports or testimony by other
experts (either for the defense or the government), and also to not explore any aspect of
the circumstances surrounding the crime for which Mr. Williams has been convicted.”
(Emphasis sic.) Rather, he was
hired as a so-called ‘teaching expert,’ with the task of informing the
court about the nature of intellectual disability, the best practices to
be followed in determining if someone has intellectual disability
within a forensic setting, and the common misconceptions about
intellectual disability which are sometimes held by experts who may
lack sufficient training or knowledge about intellectual disability.
The trial court accepted the proffered Declaration for the record but declared it would not
consider the document when rendering its decision.
{¶138} At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court again addressed the
testimony of Dr. Greenspan, this time excluding it on the basis that he was being called
solely as a teaching expert to educate the trial court judge, who felt he did not need that.
{¶139} Defense counsel informed the trial court that Dr. Greenspan was the most
cited authority in the intellectual disability section of the DSM-5 and had authored four
chapters in a book published by the AAIDD, The Death Penalty and Intellectual Disability
(2014), more than any other contributor. Counsel cited three examples of issues that
were contested in the hearing that are arguably determined by AAIDD and APA principles,
to which Dr. Greenspan could and would testify: (1) the extent to which adaptive behavior
deficits are properly assessed with the prison context, (2) whether evidence of qualifying
IQs and adaptive skill deficits should be rejected or discounted because of a comorbid
personality disorder, and (3) the application of the Flynn Effect to Williams’ IQ test scores
from early childhood. The trial court denied reconsideration of its previous ruling and
excluded Dr. Greenspan’s teaching testimony.
{¶140} On appeal, Williams first argues that the trial court abused its discretion in
excluding any and all testimony from Dr. Greenspan because it was not cumulative and
was clearly relevant to the trial court’s determination as to whether Williams is
intellectually disabled, a determination that must be made consistent with the scientific
and clinical practices as currently reflected in the AAIDD and the APA. In addition to the
three above-stated issues mentioned to the trial court, Williams notes that, perhaps most
importantly, Dr. Greenspan would also have testified as to the evolved and currently
recognized standards of both the AAIDD and the APA specific to retrospectively
assessing intellectual disability. Williams submits that Dr. Greenspan’s participation in
authoring and addressing both the AAIDD and the APA standards “eminently qualified”
him to testify and clarify the court’s understanding of whether the competing assessments
by the evaluating experts were consistent with those standards.
{¶141} The state responds that the trial court’s determination is controlled by the
standards “spelled out” in the Supreme Court of Ohio’s case law, not by the AAIDD and
the APA. This argument, however, glosses over the United States Supreme Court’s
instruction that, while leaving it to the states to develop procedures for determining
whether a defendant is intellectually disabled, a court’s determination must be “informed
by the medical community’s diagnostic framework.” Hall, supra, at 721-722; see also Van
Tran v. Colson, 764 F.3d 594, 612 (6th Cir.2014) (“In Hall, the Court reasoned that the
Constitution requires the courts and legislatures to follow clinical practices in defining
intellectual disability.”). Atkins and its progeny, both federal and state, have consistently
cited to and relied upon the current definitions, standards, and guidelines of the AAIDD
and the APA.
{¶142} Further, the state’s own statement of the issue in this assignment of error
belies its argument that Dr. Greenspan’s testimony was cumulative; to wit: “Does a trial
court abuse its discretion when it denies a defendant’s request for a teaching expert
where three other experts had testified in regards to the defendant’s intellectual abilities?”
Dr. Greenspan was not called to testify as to Williams’ specific intellectual functioning; to
the contrary, he was called to testify and educate the court as to the AAIDD and APA
guidelines and best practices to be followed, and the nature of and common
misconceptions about intellectual disability.
{¶143} Williams further argues the trial court abused its discretion because Dr.
Greenspan would have been able to address the trial court’s apparent concerns and
confusion with administration of the ABAS-3 to an inmate and the trial court’s suggestion
that it was capable itself of assessing whether the ABAS-3 was a reliable and valid
standardized test. The state responds that “it is clear that the trial court needed no
additional ‘aid’ in understanding the AAIDD or APA guidelines” because they were cited
several times in the court’s 43-page opinion and the court noted that it had considered
the entirety of these references. We believe this again misses the point of Dr.
Greenspan’s proffered testimony, which was not to direct the court to those references,
but to assist the court with understanding how they are interpreted and applied by experts
in the field. The argument is further contradicted by many of the trial court’s own
statements in the record of the evidentiary hearing.
{¶144} The trial court examined Dr. Hartung at length about her administration of
the ABAS-3. The court questioned how the questions answered by the informants were
initially scored by hand, how those scored results generate raw scores from various
subtests, and how those scores were then interpreted into standard scores. The trial
court then asked Dr. Hartung for her raw data. Dr. Hartung informed the court it is
unethical to report raw data scores in a psychological report because the raw data scores
“wouldn’t be meaningful without converting them to standard scores.” The court
responded, “So if I get this, I’m just going to have some raw data that I won’t know what
to do with?” Dr. Hartung agreed with that statement but said she could explain it to the
{¶145} The court later reiterated that it wanted the raw data “because if I have to
base this [decision] on some data, I want to make sure the data is something that I want
to base it on.” An exchange occurred between the trial court judge, Dr. Hartung, and
defense counsel, which indicates the trial court’s frustration, confusion, and concerns with
the ABAS-3, its standardization and administration, the evaluators’ differing scores, and
whether the court is “duty bound” to follow Dr. Hartung’s ethical constraints with respect
to the raw data. The court sensed that many of the questions were “designed to illicit
immaturity” and questioned the test’s ability to assess intellectual disability. At that point,
defense counsel again suggested there was a need for Dr. Greenspan’s teaching expert
testimony, as he could address the trial court’s questions and concerns about the test.
The trial court repeated, however, that it did not need that.
{¶146}In further discussion, the trial court indicated it could not make an
assessment until he accessed the raw data, stating “there are [some ABAS-3 questions]
right now I don’t think [are] a very good measure of intellectual disability. I think they have
to do with maturity more than anything else and so I may make that call.” The court also
remarked that the Supreme Court has not even had the raw data on one of these tests to
rule on it. The state responded that the AAIDD guidelines do not necessarily control the
court in what it considers relevant and valid information and that the standard was set
forth in Lott. Defense counsel responded that the ABAS-3 was a standardized instrument
used for assessing intellectual disability.
{¶147} Williams further argues it was an abuse of discretion to refuse to permit Dr.
Greenspan to testify on the basis that he was a teaching expert, rather than an evaluating
or diagnostic psychologist in the case.
{¶148} There is no requirement in Evid.R. 702 that the expert have personally
evaluated or treated the subject about whom the hearing is focused. See, e.g., Shilling
v. Mobile Analytical Serv., Inc., 65 Ohio St.3d 252 (1992), syllabus (“A witness who is not
a physician, but who qualifies as an expert under Evid.R. 702, may give evidence that
would be relevant to diagnosis of a medical condition if the testimony is within the
expertise of the witness.”). Additionally, “general information” from a psychologist specific
to a subject matter that has “been well documented and universally noted in the
psychiatric and medical community” may be admissible under Evid.R. 702. See Nemeth,
supra, at 207 (allowing an expert psychologist to testify generally about the DSM-IV and
battered child syndrome because it would “tend to enhance” the trier of fact’s ability to
assess the credibility of a child witness); see also State v. Stowers, 81 Ohio St.3d 260,
262 (1998) (citation omitted) (a psychological expert’s testimony based on “specialized
knowledge” is admissible so long as “a person has information which has been acquired
by experience, training or education which would assist the trier of fact in understanding
the evidence or a fact in issue and the information is beyond common experience”).
{¶149} Further, while factually distinguishable, the Supreme Court of Ohio has
recognized the need for and the relevance and admissibility of a teaching expert in the
Atkins context. In White, both the defense and state experts administered the SIB-R to
assess the defendant’s adaptive behavior skill deficits, and both found the defendant was
intellectually disabled. The trial court itself sought out a teaching expert witness, not to
evaluate the defendant, but to explain how the SIB-R was developed and how it is used
to diagnose intellectual disability. White, supra, at ¶30. The trial court disregarded the
results of both administered tests and found the defendant was not intellectually disabled.
Id. at ¶34-38. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court based in large part upon the
teaching expert’s testimony, concluding the record lent no support to the trial court’s belief
that using the defendant as a self-reporter for the SIB-R compromised the validity of the
evaluating experts’ diagnosis. Id. at ¶49-57.
{¶150} Here, the record indicates that a need existed for the record to include
further education and understanding at least with regard to adaptive behavior deficits and
the ABAS-3, which was administered by both the defense expert and the state expert.
The trial court attempted to remedy this situation by requesting the raw data from the
defense expert, who explained it was unethical for her to include it in her report. Although
the trial court reversed its decision to require the raw data during the hearing, the trial
court later issued a written order for the defense expert to turn over the raw data, which
she refused to do. The same order was not issued to the state expert, who had
administered the same test. It is apparent the trial court felt more information was
necessary to fully comprehend the administration of the test and the scores Williams
received. When it became clear the raw data was inaccessible, the trial court should
have then permitted Williams to call the teaching expert to testify and attempt to resolve
certain concerns the trial court had, at the very least with regard to the ABAS-3.
{¶151} Atkins claims necessarily involve an overwhelming need to educate the
factfinder in each case. Clinical guidelines and best practices in the medical and scientific
community are not static and are not common nomenclature in a courtroom. The
conclusion that Dr. Greenspan’s testimony was “cumulative” or “needless” is not
demanded by the record, and, when presented with the question of whether capital
punishment is cruel and unusual as applied, it would be cavalier for this court to conclude
that the probative value of this testimony is substantially outweighed by a concern of it
being cumulative. Rendered in the context of federal habeas review of an Atkins claim,
we note the pronouncement that “‘deference does not imply abandonment or abdication
of judicial review,’ and ‘does not by definition preclude relief.’” Brumfield, supra, at 314,
quoting Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).
{¶152} To conclude, the trial court’s decision to exclude the testimony of Dr.
Greenspan was an abuse of discretion. This is not to say that a teaching expert is
required or necessary in the review of every Atkins claim. In this case, based on the
potential, and in fact, need for clarification of conflicting conclusions, we cannot say
exclusion of this testimony was proper. Here, the record supports a need such that the
refusal to permit the testimony amounted to an abuse of discretion.

Outcome: Finding merit with Williams’ final assignment of error, the judgment of the
Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas is hereby reversed. The matter is remanded
for the purpose of permitting the additional testimony of an expert in a teaching capacity.

As a result, Williams’ first, second, third, and fourth assignments of error are not ripe for review at this time.

Additionally, in light of the new standard set forth in Ford, and the decisions
in Moore I and Moore II, all of which were decided subsequent to the experts’ evaluations and testimony in this matter, the parties are permitted to submit updated evaluations and to supplement the experts’ testimony upon request to the trial court. The trial court sha consider Williams’ Atkins petition, any updat evaluations, and any supplemental testimony of the experts and determine whether Williams is intellectually disabled pursuant to the governing law as set forth in State v. Ford, 158 Ohio St.3d 139, 2019- Ohio-4539. See Williams, 792 F.3d at 624 (instructing the state courts to give this matter “a fresh analysis * * * as to whether Williams is intellectually disabled pursuant to governing law” and “to apply clinical principles of intellectual disability adopted by federal

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


Find a Lawyer


Find a Case